The Lib Dem comms problem captured in one graph

Paul Walter makes some good points today over on Lib Dem Voice about the frequent (non-) communication between the centre and Liberal Democrat members and supporters when an issue breaks in the news.

His views mirror my own, and apply even when the breaking issue is one where the party has a good, solid story to tell. Why, for example, was it left to me to spot that there was a rapidly building set of anger about the number of Liberal Democrat MPs who had apparently abstained on same-sex marriage, to find out what the truth was (that nearly all of them had good reasons for being absent from the vote, such as one having given birth the day before) and then get the message out?

Thanks are certainly due to the various people I contacted to pull together the information, especially Ed Fordham and also including some who work at “the centre” who responded quickly to my questions, but why was I, with some help from Ed and responses from others, left to do the job? Especially on an issue like this where if you leave it a day or two before communicating, people’s perceptions are already set and it then becomes that much harder to shift them.

From the volume of traffic to my post and the extensive discussions it spawned on Twitter, Facebook and discussion forums, the information was clearly wanted, it clearly went down well with members, supporters and the public, and it even got picked up by several mainstream media outlets with their large audiences.

The problem seems to be that far too often the more members and supporters are questioning why the party is doing something, the less the communication is. Or to turn the points Paul and I have made into a graph, the problem is that the usual pattern is this:

Lib Dem communication graph

Just sometimes hunkering down and saying almost nothing, even to your members, is right. But that should be the rare exception, not the norm.


Nice to see Austin Rathe from party HQ follow up on this:

3 responses to “The Lib Dem comms problem captured in one graph”

  1. Great points.  I think it’s also a very similar curve / line between LP’s and members, and for that matter LP’s and constituents.  Can I nick your graph!!

  2. A frustrating situation, and a tough one to resolve. Comes back to the point of actions needing to reflect the reality of the environment. Clearly there is a mismatch between the “center’s” perception of what people care about and what they actually care about in reality. Need to find a mechanism to better detect and react to the priorities of the members (and indeed potential members) to play up positive messaging where possible and to better frame contentious issues.

  3. I fully agree.   I don’t think Austin’s concern is well placed: if someone isn’t interested in the detail, they’ll ignore it.   For some, even just knowing that the centre has attempted to communicate with them and explain what’s going on will be enough.   For those who are interested, it really is vital to understand what’s happening at the top of our party.
    Finally, if the leadership was in the habit of communicating with members and feeding back on its decisions, it would help prevent problems.   It’s the same principle as democracy: when you feel accountable, you’re more likely to do a good job.   Where you have to make difficult decisions, you have to explain them to your voters (or party members).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.